Birds in cages crying for help

From ‘Stop bird-singing competitions’, 20 Jan 2018, ST Forum

(Tan Kim Hock): Mr Donny Ho Boon Tiong is right – keeping pet birds should be made illegal (Have animal activists forgotten about birds?; Jan 17). Although Singapore is a small island, bird lovers should have no difficulty finding places to admire the animals in their natural habitats.

The keeping of birds in small cages is very cruel. I often wonder whether they are singing or crying for help when they call out. I also wonder if there have been any studies carried out on the welfare of caged birds.

The keeping of songbirds has been a practice in Asian societies for many years. Hence, the banning of the practice will certainly face objections, initially at least.

In Singapore, bird-singing competitions are regularly held by some grassroots organisations. This practice indirectly promotes the keeping of birds in cages.

As a first step, the People’s Association should perhaps discourage such competitions.

Like fining people for burning incense during Hungry Ghost month, it would be hard to crack down on bird hobbyists, especially since ‘Bird-singing corners’ was recognised as an official SG50 icon in 2015. Yes, if you want something for a tourist to remember the Garden City by, it’s a yellow bird in a small cage.

birdsingingcorner

 

Just like we have no idea what it’s like being a bat, we can’t judge the emotional state of a bird by the ‘sweetness’ of its melody. If a bird in a cage starts pecking its face off on the cage bars, it may look to me like it wants to get the fuck out, but to a songbird contestant, it could be just part of the avian maestro’s vocal ‘training’. As a songbird I may get daily massages and premium birdseed, I may be the reigning champion of Bukit Ho Swee constituency, but for all my talents I’m stuck in this pretty cage while the noisy bastard  Asian koel is out there laying eggs and using its wings to do the stuff birds do.

One of the silliest explanations given in support of Bird Idol contests is that a bird wouldn’t be singing if it weren’t HAPPY. Which is the same flawed anthropomorphic reasoning as saying dolphins are happy being held captive entertaining their human overlords because they look like they’re smiling all the time.

Besides, even as a human, singing doesn’t mean that I’m overjoyed. It could be a cry for attention like crooning ‘Tissue Paper One Dollar’, or raging against an ex-lover through Ceelo Green’s ‘FUCK YOU’. In the case of songbirds, it could very well be their version of Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free.’

 

 

 

 

 

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